By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

By the Sea Outer BanksAh! What pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.
-The Secret of the Sea by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There is something extraordinary that occurs as we stand at the edge of a continent and contemplate the sea. A part of this connection is the seemingly endless horizon with occasional silhouettes of ships crossing the waters. We feel fortunate that the Outer Banks sand is soft and warm beneath our feet. The waves crest and roll to the shore with a rhythm that is soothing in its constancy.

Poets have long written about the sea and its mystical power over our emotions. What they intuitively expressed in words, we are now finding to be factual; it’s not in our imaginations that the sea soothes our fears and imparts a calming effect on us.

Or, perhaps the feelings evoked by the seashore are partially grounded in our imaginations. Science has been researching why being near the sea creates a sense of well-being. This field of research began about ten years ago, and although the results are tenuous, the connections they are finding are quite compelling.

In 2013 an environmental psychologist, Mathew White, was studying census data in England, and he noticed people living close to the sea had a significantly better sense of well-being than the rest of the country. This information encompassed all areas of the country and included all age groups. The obvious question arose, “Is there a clear physiological reason for these results?”

Some of the physical effects commonly noted may have a factual basis. People consistently state they sleep better by the sea. Several sources confirm a theory that coastal salt air contains abundant levels of healthy negative ions. Negative ions are responsible for two functions that create a more restful sleep; oxygen absorption by the body and balancing levels of serotonin, a body chemical that is associated with healthy sleep patterns, mood stabilization and stress reduction.

That stroll along the beach is certainly good for the heart, and nothing compares to walking in sand to tone muscles. But there may be even more to it. According to research done by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, even a brief walk on the beach can alter a bad mood and give people an emotional boost. The study, concluded in 2013, was done over a two year period and included 2,750 participants. From a scientific standpoint more studies will need to be done before a definitive conclusion can be reached, but results thus far are very suggestive that time spent at the seashore have positive effects on people’s overall wellbeing.

Is one beach location better than another? This is most likely a matter of personal choice. Those who flock to the Outer Banks likely do so, because our growth has been planned to allow for protection of large portions of our native seashore and wildlife. There is little question that spending time in a natural setting has overall benefits for the relaxation and rejuvenation people search for during their valuable vacation days.

The Dune Shops Kitty Hawk

Josephines Kitchen Kitty HawkOn the east side of Croatan Highway (the Bypass) in Kitty Hawk, the Dunes Shops is a strip mall that looks like a snapshot from the late 1960s or early 70s. It was the first Outer Banks strip mall, and it was a pretty big deal when it opened. But, time passes quickly, and until three to four years ago, it was fading with the signs of age.

At that time, Josephine Caggese and her husband, Cosmo, owners of Cosmo’s Pizza in the Marketplace in Southern Shores, took over management of the mall and opened Josephine’s Sicilian Kitchen, and the crowds followed. Josephine is an excellent chef and the food is outstanding. But along with the new restaurant, the new management gave the mall a much needed facelift.Poks_art_Kitty_Hawk

It still has the same blocky 1970’s shape. They didn’t change the architecture, but fresh paint, façade work and a new sign helped to make the Dunes Shops come alive again. On north the end, anchoring the mall is Josephine’s, which quickly gained favors amongst locals. They don’t take reservations, and it can get quite busy but the wait is worth it. It is family-style seating so there’s a good possibility you’ll end up comparing notes about your meal with welcoming strangers.

In the mid-section of the mall, there are two additional places to get a bite to eat. Pok’s Art is Chef Pok’s Asian Fusion restaurant. Pok, who was the chef at the Brewing Station for years, has a well-deserved reputation for finesse, quality and innovation, and the dishes we’ve sampled have been excellent. The seating is very limited; so it’s best to plan for takeout when you go.

Deja New Kitty HawkNext door, is Necla (pronounced Nayshla) Rader’s Outer Bean Juice and Java. Amazing coffee, nutritious smoothies, made from scratch soups made daily, creative salads, a savory selection of paninis – perfect for lunch and Necla is friendly, outgoing and an enjoyable conversationalist.

The remaining shops in the mall give it an eclectic Outer Banks feeling worth exploring. Donna Hollowell, who owns Deja New, loves to take the old and make it come alive again. Her skill at repurposing, and the ever changing inventory, make people drop in year round to see her unique finds and creations. What really makes Donna stand out, though, is her passion to explain her works to others. Don’t forget to ask about her year-round workshops that Donna hosts to share her craft.Amity Kitty Hawk

One other store retailer that really stands out is Made in the OBX. One visit will make you aware of the amazing artisans and artists living on the Outer Banks, and Made in the OBX is tapping into those skills. This location is definitely worth a look and pleasant conversation with owners Bill and Lorna Ernst.

Amity Boutique is a mellow, contemporary fashion store for women. There are two Amity stores on the Outer Banks—Islands by Amity in Duck and this Kitty Hawk location. One of the few businesses in the mall that predate the facelift and renovations, the atmosphere in the store is relaxed and welcoming.

The Dune Shops
Restaurants, Coffee, Boutiques
3701 N Croatan Highway
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949, NC

History of Outer Banks Fishermen

Old Outer Banks FishermanWhen English explorer Arthur Barlowe and his ship first made landfall on the Outer Banks, the crew welcomed the Native Americans who came to greet them with gifts. The Indians climbed back in their canoes to show the English the abundance of the sea.

Writing about his experience when he returned to England, Barlowe recorded, “ . . . assoone as hee was two bow shoot into the water, hee fell to fishing, and in lesse then halfe an houre, he had laden his boate as deepe as it could swimme. . . “ Translation: As soon as he was two bow shots into the water, he fell to fishing and in less than half an hour, he had laden his boat as deep as it could swim.

The bounty of the sea has been a part of the history of the Outer Banks since before the first European explorers set foot upon its shores, and from that abundance has come a rich history of earning a living from the sea that has continued through modern times. Intertwined with this history are smugglers, rumrunners and boat designers.

The earliest Outer Banks settlers lived a subsistence life—growing enough crops from an infertile soil and hunting and fishing to feed themselves. What life on the sea taught early fishermen was where the shoals, sandbars and hidden inlets lay, and there is little doubt they supplemented their income with smuggling.Fisherman Black and White

There was some commercial fishing, although it was very limited. Without refrigeration the fish would have been dried and salted before sale. Although the Outer Banks were considered a backwater, improvements in the U.S. transportation system after the Civil War made getting perishable products to market possible, and fishing as a way of life became viable.

However, the fishing boats of the time were not well suited for the conditions Outer Banks fishermen were encountering. Enter George Washington Creef—Roanoke Island resident, fisherman and designer of the Shad Boat that came into prominence in the late 19th century. With its high, sharp prow and rounded bottom with a wide body, the boat was steady in high seas and could carry a large load. The shad boat is the State Boat of North Carolina.

As an aside—building a shad boat required considerable skill, and that tradition of skilled boatbuilding has been handed down for over 125 years. It is an important part of the reason there is a thriving boatbuilding industry on the Outer Banks.

During Prohibition (1919-1933), the smuggling tradition was reignited when savvy Outer Banks sailors would scoot out to sea, pick up a load of rum and bring it to port before the Revenuers could get to them. Yet, it’s fishing that has remained a way of life into modern times.

On Hatteras Island, Hatteras Village and Avon were originally fishing towns, and both continue to support commercial fishing. When it was primarily a fishing village, Avon was named Kinakeet and a number of old time residents still refer to it that way.

Row Boat Black and WhiteThe largest Outer Banks fishing port and the center of the commercial fishing industry is Wanchese, located on the south end of Roanoke Island. With multiple fish houses and modern dock facilities, it is the home port for most of the local commercial fishermen.

Although there are a number of fishermen still plying the waters of the sounds and sea, it is a way of life that is becoming more difficult on the Outer Banks. Funds for dredging Oregon and Hatteras Inlets have been cut, and without dredging, the inlets shoal up and become difficult if not impossible to navigate. There are also regulatory pressures, although local commercial fishermen have shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changing regulations.

Even with the pressures on the local fleet, the daily catch is still significant. The volume is compelling enough that when it states “catch of the day” on a local menu, it probably is!

Outer Banks Wedding Venues

The Outer Banks has become one of the most popular wedding destinations in the United States and for many reasons; the main one being its beautiful natural setting. Perhaps our location is a bit remote, but the Outer Banks is centrally located on the east coast, and there are literally hundreds of professionals who reside in our area who specialize in creating memorable and personalized destination weddings.

Selecting a site to say your vows is an essential part of any wedding, and the Outer Banks offers many unique locations to accommodate your event. A tip for couples planning an outdoor ceremony is to always include an alternate indoor location in the event of unforeseen weather events.

Carolina Designs Wedding HomeEvent Homes
Carolina Designs represents over 65 homes that allow weddings and special events. These properties range in size from 5 bedroom homes to 22 bedroom estates. Many are oceanfront with private pools and feature extravagant indoor and outdoor amenities. View our Wedding and Special Event page for more information.

With world famous beaches from the tip of Ocracoke to the Virginia state line, the Outer Banks has a wide variety of beach locations from which to choose. Fresh coastal breezes and the lull of the surf is the perfect backdrop to create beautiful everlasting memories. Please note that most beach weddings are scheduled during our spring and fall months to avoid the summer heat. Weddings are often scheduled in the early evening when lighting is ideal for photographers.

National Park Service
Outer Banks beaches from South Nags Head to the Village of Ocracoke are part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and a permit is needed to have a wedding on CHNS land. This does not include Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge which occupies the northern part of Hatteras Island. Don’t let the $100 permit discourage you. It allows for a wedding anywhere on CHNS land, including historic sites, although some restrictions do apply.Currituck Lighthouse Matt Lusk

Whalehead Club
Not every waterfront wedding on the Outer Banks is on the oceanfront. Some of the most beautiful settings are on the soundside, especially for those dreaming of a sunset ceremony. One of the most sought-after wedding venues on the Outer Banks is the historic Whalehead Club. Its popularity stems from the picturesque beauty of a classically designed art deco estate located on beautifully manicured grounds framed by massive live oak trees and the Currituck Sound.

NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island
For anyone looking for a unique wedding setting, why not get married surrounded by fish? The aquarium is available for private parties and weddings are included on that list. The only caveat is it must be planned for after business hours. The ceremony can be held indoors surrounded by floor to ceiling tanks or on landscaped grounds with captivating views of the Roanoke Sound and a private pier that’s perfectly suitable for a sunset wedding.

Roanoke Island Festival ParkRoanoke Island Festival Park
If you’ve ever wanted to be married onstage, it will be difficult to top this waterfront venue. This peaceful location features an outdoor stage framed by the tranquil Shallowbag Bay as it opens into the Roanoke Sound. The site hosts outdoor concerts so the grounds can easily accommodate hundreds. It is also very convenient to a number of businesses that specialize in wedding parties. Serene beauty, location and size are just three reasons the RIFP is rising in popularity as an Outer Banks wedding venue.

Long-Standing Outer Banks Businesses

Among the multitude of new homes springing up along the shoreline and new enterprises that sprout each year with fanfare and hope, there exists a core of Outer Banks businesses that have become a part of the fabric of local life.

Hairoics Outer BanksHairoics Spa & Salon
Celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2015, Jim and Sandy Williams built Hairoics on the basic principles that you have to remain very good at what you do and that customers should always be pampered. Their Kill Devil Hills location is staffed with professional hair stylists who understand current style and color trends, many who have been with the couple for years. Over time, they have expanded their business beyond styling by adding a day spa and massage rooms. It’s rare for a hair salon to flourish for 25 years, but Jim and Sandy have created a great model on how to retain customer loyalty!

Kitty Hawk Kites
In 1974 hang gliding was the newest extreme sport. John Harris and Ralph Buxton got a film on how to fly, and they climbed up on Jockey’s Ridge and practiced until they were convinced they could teach others the sport. As the saying goes … the rest is history. Ralph is no longer associated with Kitty Hawk Kites, but John Harris continues to manage as president. The original store is still in operation at Jockey’s Ridge Crossing in Nags Head, but the company has expanded exponentially and now offers a wide range of recreational activities. The Kitty Hawk Kites hang gliding school is the oldest on record and is credited with teaching over 100,000 people to fly.

Winks Grocery
There really wasn’t much in Kitty Hawk in 1957 when Winks first opened its doors. Frank Stick and his son, David, were building flattops up in Southern Shores, there were a handful of beachfront cottages and a couple of motels, but that was the extent of development. The store has had a couple of different owners over the years, but it’s always managed to retain that same neighborhood feel. The shelves are lined with convenient store necessities and everything needed for the beach, and you have to check out their lunch and dinner specials from the kitchen tucked away in the back! Walking through the doors is a pleasant step back in time.

Gray’s Family Department Stores
Walter Gray had a vision that the Outer Banks would one day be a tourist Mecca. He may have been ahead of his time in 1948 when he opened his Nags Head store, but it’s now quite clear that he was onto something! The Nags Head store on the Beach Road closed a number of years ago, moving to the present Kitty Hawk location. The building still stands and is now Seagreen Gallery (another great local business). Mr. Gray passed away in 2004, but his legacy lives on through his sons and daughter who still run the family business.

Pioneer Theater
When George Creef, Jr. opened the Pioneer Theater in 1918 there was good reason to doubt his sanity. Manteo was barely a village, there were at most 5,000 people in the county and no roads connecting the villages with the county seat. George’s vision has resulted in The Pioneer Theater becoming the oldest theater nationwide that has been continuously owned by the same family. George’s great-great-grandson, Buddy Creef, owns and operates it today. For those curious about how movie theaters once were, Pioneer Ticket prices are about $4.00 less than first run theaters and they pop their own corn!